The audio system is pretty basic in the Forte SX, but has enough amplification to sound good. Along with A pillar tweeters, there are four door woofers. The sound quality isn't bad; we noted good stereo separation in our testing and crisp highs. But the amp is a bit too powerful for the speakers, as we heard plenty of rattle in tracks with a bass focus.
The Forte's Bluetooth phone system is the same as the one we saw in the Soul, and it's one of the best in the business. Similar to Ford's Sync system, it ingests the contact list of any paired phone and makes it possible to dial any number by name. The voice recognition is very good, and the system will ask which number to use for contacts with multiple numbers. Although it uses a voice command interface, there is visual feedback on the car's screen. The only quirk we found was that, with an iPhone, we had to say names with the last name first.
Highways and byways
With a phone paired to the car and music playing from an iPod, we put the Forte SX on the freeway. During an aggressive run up a freeway on ramp, we noted the engine losing steam over 30 mph. It puts everything it's worth into low-speed acceleration. While cruising, the five-speed automatic kept the engine speed at a comfortable 2,000 to 2,500rpm, and again the green Eco light stayed on, even at 75 mph. The Forte SX felt stable and comfortable at freeway speeds, and blended into the herd of economy cars on the road.
Considering the type of car, we didn't push it hard on any twisty mountain routes, but did take it out on some two lane highways. For the curves we did negotiate, the Forte SX showed the kind of understeer we had been expecting. For passing maneuvers, the car left us slightly less than confident. Running at 50 mph or so, it couldn't get up enough extra push to really rip past slower traffic before oncoming traffic started closing in, forcing us to wait for the really safe passing spots.
The automatic transmission also has a manual mode, mostly useful for negotiating hills. It shows typical automatic slushiness when forced up or down a gear. Climbing a hill, the transmission wanted to stay in fourth, but we pushed it down to third with the manual mode, getting a little extra power to keep speed up the hill.
The EPA puts the fuel economy of the 2010 Kia Forte SX at 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, good numbers for a roomy car like this. During our driving, we achieved a few tenths above 26 mpg, approaching the middle of the EPA range.
The 2010 Kia Forte SX feels like a good-quality car, and for the price makes a good value. But it's not a big tech car. The engine and transmission are fairly run-of-the-mill, amounting to fairly average-performance tech. Cabin tech has a couple of very good highlights, giving its score a boost, but lack of navigation hurts it. As for design, it is a good-looking little car, but it doesn't distinguish itself. It will quickly be lost in the herds of Corollas and Civics out there. However, the interface design helps it out a bit, as we found it easy to browse music on an iPod or satellite radio.
|Model||2010 Kia Forte|
|Powertrain||2.4-liter four cylinder engine|
|EPA fuel economy||23 mpg city/31 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||26.2 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||Single CD, MP3 compatible|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Satellite radio, USB drive, auxiliary jack|
|Audio system||Six speakers standard|
|Price as tested||$19,795|